In an assault that bears the hallmarks of militant attacks, unidentified assailants yesterday hacked to death a local staff member of the USAID and his friend in a flat in the capital's Kalabagan, police said.
A police officer and the building guard were also injured in the machete attack carried out by a group of five to six around 5:15pm.
The USAID staff, Xulhaz Mannan, earlier worked as a protocol officer of former US ambassador Dan Mozena for long. His friend was identified as Mahbub Tonoy, 26, a private university student.
Xulhaz, 35, was a Political Process Analyst at the USAID. He was also an editor of “Roopbaan,” the country's only known magazine for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.
His mother Sakhina Begum was in the house during the attack, but it was not clear if she was in the same room. The house help was in the kitchen.
The injured police officer is Assistant Sub-inspector Momtaz, who was hacked when he tried to nab one of the attackers on Dolphiner Goli, some 300 yards from the building. He is taking treatment at a local clinic.
Security guard Parvez Mollah was admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital with stab wounds above his left eye and in the left arm.
The attack came only hours after Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said the security situation in Bangladesh was better than in many other countries.
It also comes just two days after the murder of Rajshahi University teacher Rezaul Karim Siddiquee in the northern city. According to US-based SITE Intelligence Group, international militant outfit Islamic State claimed responsibility for the murder.
The government insists there is no IS presence in the country.
Yesterday's killing mission lasted about five minutes, and the assailants chanted “Allahu Akbar” while hacking the two and also while leaving the scene, said neighbours.
One of the attackers changed his blood-stained blue shirt and then wore a white one.
“We suspect militants are involved in the killings,” Mohammed Iqbal, officer-in-charge of Kalabagan Police Station, told The Daily Star.
A five-member police team caught one suspect from a nearby road, but he fled after stabbing one officer. Police fired two shots while chasing the suspects who fired back and ran away, he added.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia said they were probing the incident and they would be able to say if it was a militant attack after the probe ended.
But he said it was a targeted and preplanned killing.
Police have found a bag, a mobile phone and several other things left behind by the assailants, he added.
The US State Department, the US embassy in Dhaka and the Amnesty International condemned the attack.
Xulhaz was a cousin of former foreign minister and Awami League leader Dipu Moni. She visited the home after the incident.
The bodies were taken to Dhaka Medical College for autopsies.
'THREATS FROM ISLAMISTS'
Xulhaz was behind an annual Rainbow Rally, which is being held on April 14, the Bangla New Year, since 2014.
But police this year banned the rally as part of security measures.
Ahead of the banned rally earlier this month, Xulhaz told AFP that they had received threats from Islamists, who posted messages online.
“They have even set up an online group to threaten us,” he told the news agency.
Parvez, the injured security guard, told reporters at the DMCH that three young men dressed identically approached the gate of the seven-storey building and identifying themselves as employees of a courier service, they said they wanted to deliver two packages to Xulhaz.
Asking them to wait, Parvez went upstairs to ask Xulhaz if he was expecting any deliveries.
Just as Xulhaz was telling Parvez that he was not expecting any parcel, the three forcibly entered the apartment.
They attacked Parvez when he tried to stop them from entering.
An injured Parvez then ran downstairs to call for help. Neighbours rushed to the flat and found the two lying in a pool of blood. By that time the attackers went out of the building.
Alamgir Hossain, a neighbour, said, “An elderly woman was crying in a feeble voice: please take my son to a hospital.”
A woman in the neighbourhood told The Daily Star that she saw five to six youths, holding sharp weapons and firearms, leave the area shouting “Allahu Akbar”.
Some of them were wearing navy blue shirts and others T-shirts and black plants.
According to her, the youths were aged between 22 and 28 and they carried backpacks.
They fired three shots while fleeing, she said, adding that many people were around but no one tried to intercept them.
Contacted, the home minister last night said they were hoping to find some evidence and arrest the culprits.